Monthly Archives: March 2009

They Just Can’t Help It

Here, if you haven’t seen it, is an amusing item from YouTube: how would Microsoft have marketed the iPod?

Still Crazy After All These Years

Here’s more good sense about our nation’s demented and obsessive “War on Drugs”, this time from Jack Cafferty: Someone described insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time. That’s a perfect description of the war on drugs. Exactly right. (That “someone”, by the way, was Albert Einstein.) […]


It is a truism these days that any claim relating the statistically varying abilities and aptitudes of human beings to, say, skin color, or “gender”, is a shocking and benighted atavism, a pernicious throwback to the bad old days of racism and sexism. If such correlations emerge, as they occasionally do, from a “scientific” study […]

Shell Game

An item at the CNN website reports that a study from Queen’s University, Belfast suggests that crabs “feel” pain. The study, by researchers Bob Elwood and Mirjam Appel, examined the behavior of hermit crabs subjected to electric shocks. Hermit crabs, as I am sure you know, live in the abandoned shells of other animals, and […]

F. E. Smith

I’ve been reading the book Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age, by Arthur Herman, and was taken by this description of Churchill’s close friend F. E. Smith, the 1st Earl of Birkenhead, and Secretary of State for India from 1924 to 1928: “F.E. to his friends, his […]


We’d like to thank G. Orcalimbo Jones, host of the Friday night show at WOMR in Provincetown, for the mention he gave this website on the air last night. If any of you have found your way here as a result, welcome, and thanks for dropping by. Related content from Sphere

Groveling In Geneva

We are in Wellfleet for the weekend, and earlier this evening I spent a delightful hour gathering a few dozen of our highly prized local oysters from the tidal flat at Indian Neck Beach. Though most of the critters you’ll find there at low tide are molluscs and crustaceans — clams, oysters, crabs, and the […]

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Diligently doing its part to undermine America’s intellectual respectability and competitiveness, the Texas Board of Education is taking up an amendment this week that seeks to smuggle religious myths, such as the transparent Creationist fraud known as “Intelligent Design”, into the science classroom in the name of “academic freedom”. Were this dispute taking place only […]

President Wonderful

Recently the decorated journalist Bernard Goldberg, incensed by a conspicuous left-leaning bias in many of the nation’s news and entertainment providers, published a book called A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media. In today’s Washington Post, we find a good example, in […]

Parts Of Speech

I’ve just watched President Obama’s press conference on CNN. It was not an easy night for him. The focus was on the economy; in fact there was not a single mention of Iraq or Afghanistan. To illustrate this, the producers at CNN used a cute little application that generates what are called “word clouds” — […]

Hear, Hear

As President Obama sends a wave of federal agents to our border states in response to the violence now spilling over from Mexico, we find on CNN’s main page a sensible Op-Ed piece calling for an end to our bloody and puritanical “war on drugs”. We read: It is impossible to reconcile respect for individual […]


I realize that if I am going to live and work in New York City I am necessarily going to come into contact with bothersome people, and that the effect is magnified in the confined quarters of the subway. Over the thirty-odd years I’ve been living here I have certainly met my share of unpleasant […]


While I was doing some research for an upcoming post about last weekend’s fascinating trip to Welland, Ontario, I ran across a remarkable bit of amateur video. It shows the events of August 11th, 2001, when the freight ship Windoc, while traversing the Welland Canal, struck a lowering drawbridge at Allanburg, Ontario. Amazingly, nobody was […]

See Food

We’ve set aside our musings about free will and moral responsibility for a while now, but a story making its way around the grapevine certainly seems relevant. It’s an insanity-defense case from Texas in which the defendant killed his wife and two children. Related content from Sphere

March Mental Illness

I’m not much of a basketball fan, but you’d have to be out cold not to notice all the bracket-related hoop-la every March. One thing that has always struck me as odd about the NCAA tournament, though, is that to a disinterested observer, the point of the whole thing seems to be the semi-finals. The […]

They Shouldn’t Have Made Such Essenes

With a hat tip to reader J. Kapok, we have an interesting item in which a scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls argues that the putative authors, the ascetic cult called the Essenes, never existed. Learn more here. Related content from Sphere

Axe Of Faith

Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, has written a series of posts lately about just what atheism is. In particular his aim has been to rebut the notion that atheists merely lack a positive belief in God, and that the burden of proof naturally falls upon the theist. I am not going to take up the […]

What You Mean “We”, Kemosabe?

I am more than a little concerned about our new president’s stewardship of the vital friendship between the U.S. and Britain. Mr. Obama gave Prime Minister Gordon Brown the cold shoulder during his recent visit, saying he was “too tired” for a state dinner, and later a Foggy Bottom staffer blithely dismissed the snub, saying […]


There is an agreeable interval between childhood and marriage during which a man may eat what he pleases.


Perhaps a more accurate description would be “dim-witted claptrap”.

“I Think So, Brain, But…”

I’ve just got back from a whirlwind visit to Welland, Ontario — and a most interesting and unusual trip it was (details and photos to follow shortly). It’s late, though, so rather than a meaty post, I can only offer a diverting little bon-bon, courtesy of my son Nick, for you cartoon fans out there. […]

Service Notice

Traveling today, minus laptop. Back tomorrow or Tuesday.

How Noble In Reason

The “Monty Hall problem”, which we looked at in a recent post, is a revealing example of the ways in which, despite our vaunted intelligence, our cognitive intuitions are often misleading, or simply wrong. This is worrisome: just how extensive is the problem? If we can’t trust our intuitions about simple probabilities, then what else […]


Not much time for writing this evening, so it’s time for some Shameless Filler. In tonight’s edition: The 50 Worst Cars Of All Time.

Let’s Make A Mistake

We humans perform a great many hard cognitive tasks with astounding ease. We form sentences, recognize faces, detect patterns, read body language, and accomplish without effort an astonishing variety of complex feats that turn out to be very, very difficult to program computers to do. This is because our brains have evolved a powerful collection […]

Worlds Apart

In his latest post, Jeffery Hodges has brought to our attention, and commented upon, a very interesting article by Roger Scruton about some of the fundamental distinctions between Islam and the West. I do hope you will go and read it. Related content from Sphere

Clear And Present Danger

I think one of the most amazing gifts of the technological revolution of the past few years has been the use of satellite imagery to create dazzling applications like Google Earth. I just love it, and I love it even more with each improvement in coverage and resolution. But now, according to a recent item […]

Alpha Goes Beta

You may have heard of a physicist and mathematician by the name of Stephen Wolfram, a man of remarkable gifts who was doing important work in particle physics by age 17, had his doctorate from Caltech by 20, and who went on to build an enormously successful business venture around a software product called Mathematica. […]

Safety Net, Or Trap Door?

Minimum-wage laws are often thought of as a boon to the least fortunate, and a moral rebuke to Dickensian free-market sorts — but they do not always confer the blessings their sponsors desire. A recent government report about a sharp rise in minimum-wage mandates in Honduras shows us something about unintended consequences. Related content from […]

An Eye For An Eye And An Eye

From the AP comes a fine example of the moral rectitude of Islamic law. A woman from Iran was attacked with acid by a suitor she rejected (which seems, by the way, to be an increasingly popular way to brutalize Muslim females these days, and I expect Middle-Eastern acid merchants are doing well even in […]

Heart Of Darkness

Anyone who has been paying any attention to world affairs will by now have heard of the traffic “accident” Friday in which Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was injured, and his wife killed. Tsvangirai has been a thorn in dictator Robert Mugabe’s side since leaving the ruling party, Zanu-PF, in the early 1990’s. Since then […]

The Nerve!

In the wake (perhaps too ominous a word) of my little medical adventure last summer, a highly regarded New York cardiologist, noting that my total cholesterol was, at 248 (with a cholesterol/HDL ratio of 3.4), too high for his liking, put me on a low dose (7.5 mg/week) of the statin drug Crestor. I was […]


If you are like me, you will, on extremely rare occasions, find yourself having had a great deal to drink the night before, and greeting the day with a challenging “hangover”. I have done a little independent research into this predicament over the years, and believe I have settled on the right approach to it. […]

Hold The Sizzle

I’ve always liked Dick Cavett. His career as a prominent public conversationalist began in 1968, when I, as twelve-year-old, was only beginning to understand how grownups could possibly enjoy just sitting around talking. My mother used to watch his show, and I found, to my surprise, that I enjoyed watching it too. He is a […]

Stupid Ice Tricks

Here’s something odd. I’ve seen this a few times before, but this is the best example yet: If you aren’t sure what you’re looking at here, it’s an ice-tray I just pulled from the freezer. I’ve occasionally wondered how these odd stalagmites form, but until tonight I had no idea how, or what special conditions […]

Can You Hear Me Now?

A knowledgeable and inquisitive reader, having joined me in puzzling over the strange “blacklisting” errors we have just experienced here for Asian IPs, thought I might find a certain year-old Slate article interesting. I did indeed. It describes the findings of one Babak Pasdar, a network-security expert who was called in by a major telecommunications […]

The Donner Party

There is rather an amusing ruckus underway in the Republican Party, which has been floundering in disarray since the presidential race. The titular head of the GOP, Michael Steele, has been going mano a mano with Rush Limbaugh over who is really the party’s leader. Steele may have the official position, but he made a […]

Service Notice

I’ve received two emails today from readers living in Asia, both telling me that they had received the error “HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden” when trying to access this website. One thought that I had intentionally blocked him from visiting the site, something I would be very unlikely to do. I don’t know what the […]

They Walk Among Us

I’ve mentioned that I have sort of a drummer’s crush lately on Porcupine Tree / King Crimson batteur Gavin Harrison — who, I have decided, may not be human (I’m well acquainted with others of his alien species: Dennis Chambers, Keith Carlock, Peter Erskine, etc.). Here he is again. Related content from Sphere


I have been harping a lot lately, it seems, on cultural conflicts: immigration, racial and ethnic disharmony, and above all the struggle between Islam and the West. These are of course important topics, but the tagline of this blog (taken, as is the title itself, from Fela Kuti’s Coffin for Head of State), is “I […]